RAIL campaigners looking to see the line between Stratford and Honeybourne re-opened have received a further boost.
The Stratford/Worcester/Oxford (SWO) group has welcomed chancellor George Osborne’s announcement this week of
government plans to establish a National Infrastruture Commission to look at the local and national benefits arising from greater public transport connections.
The group hopes it could eventually lead to the re-opening of the line which formerly connected Birmingham Stratford Honeybourne Broadway and Cheltenham, but which was closed in 1976 due to then financial constraints on British Rail.
The news comes shortly after Stratford District Council confirmed it would be tabling a bid for funding from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership to finance a further study into the project’s viability.
SWO campaigner Fraser Pithie said: “We are pleased there is to be a National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) that will look at things such as rail transport schemes much more holistically.
“Stratford suffers from a poor rail service. From Sunday October 26 a further significant reduction in London services by Chiltern Railways takes place so they can concentrate on more lucrative revenues from their new Oxford-Bicester-Marylebone service.
“Stratford only attracts six per cent of visitors to travel to the town by rail. The national average for visitors by rail to similar UK rail connected tourist destinations is over double that at 13 per cent.”
Mr Fraser believes a NIC could overcome one of the biggest hurdles facing the line – the fact the route from Stratford to Honeybourne straddles two government regional boundaries, two Network Rail regions, three county councils, three district councils and two Local Enterprise Partnerships.
He added: “Not one of the various authorities have ever taken ownership. So dereliction has been allowed to take the place of promotion.
“A NIC represents a real prospect of a more positive approach that supports commerce, local businesses and a better amenity for local communities.”
“We believe the potential for growth in visitors by rail is evidence of the scale, opportunity and need for better connectivity and economic benefits for Stratford and South Warwickshire residents together with the many excellent town shops and local businesses.”
But there is also strong opposition to re-opening the line.
The No Avon Rail Group has questioned the feasibility and say re-opening the line would have a negative environmental impact and went against a major principle of the Neighbourhood Plan to protect green spaces.